Will gun rights decide Ohio’s governor race?

Posted on November 1, 2010

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For most of the summer and fall, Republican John Kasich held comfortable leads in most polls over incumbent Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland. Over the last few weeks, however, the race has tightened considerably, with the latest Quinnipiac poll putting Kasich up by only one point. This is despite the fact that the Republican Senate candidate, Rob Portman, seems to be cruising to a double-digit victory over Lee Fisher. RealClearPolitics’ average is a Kasich lead of 2.8 points, a considerable tightening considering he held a ten point lead just a month and a half ago.

Why the disparity in poll results for Kasich and Portman? Gun rights may have something to do with it. Over the weekend, the Strickland campaign began airing commercials touting the NRA’s endorsement of Strickland and Kasich’s poor record on gun laws. The NRA has rated Strickland an “A” or better since 1992 when as a Congressman Strickland voted against the Brady handgun bill and a semi-automatic ban.

Kasich, meanwhile, currently has a “B” rating, but Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, blasted Kasich’s past voting record, including a vote for handgun restrictions in 1986 and the DC gun ban, as well as other votes which earned him an “F” rating back in 1994.

See, that’s the thing – Kasich must have done a few things right to get himself from a failing grade all the way back up to a “B”. And while staunch gun-rights advocates may have a few points about Strickland being better on Second Amendment issues than Kasich, really, what’s the larger view? I really find it hard to believe that in a state with crippling unemployment and job losses, Ohio gun owners (one of which I am not) are going to take to the polls with handgun confiscation first and foremost on their minds.

Indeed, many supporters of the NRA have been scratching their heads with some of their endorsements this cycle, including their endorsement for Harry Reid. It could simply be the case that the NRA doesn’t want to be seen as overtly partisan, and by handing out endorsements to both parties, incentivizes Democrats and Republicans to pay attention to Second Amendment issues.

I still think Kasich is going to win tomorrow, but like Ed Morrissey I remain puzzled at the wide polling disparity between he and Portman. Could be the cash disparity in the Senate race, could be some other ads Strickland is running attacking Kasich’s time on Wall Street as an employee of Lehman Brothers. In any case, I just don’t believe the disparity in vote percentages will be that great.

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Posted in: News, Politics